Ancient and modern

Become like ancient Athens — leave the EU

Britain has an opportunity to lay the foundations of an independent future

13 February 2016

9:00 AM

13 February 2016

9:00 AM

One feels that Sir Stuart Rose, leader of the EU referendum ‘In’ campaign, should really try a little harder. First he says that ‘the stats prove’ that being ‘in’ the EU is better than being ‘out’. Presumably the ‘out’ stats date from before 1973. Then he says that we do not know what the future will hold ‘out’ of the EU. So he knows about the future ‘in’ the EU, does he? So did Greece — once.

The ancients generally felt it to be better to stick with the devil you knew. Nevertheless, Athenian history provides many telling examples of radical decision-making that transformed Athenian life. By stabilising the Greek economy and spreading political power more widely among citizens, Solon (594 BC) began levering control away from aristocratic families and laying the groundwork for the invention of the world’s first (and last) democracy, created by Cleisthenes in 508 BC. As a result, Athenian citizens came not only to take all political decisions but also to fill (in turn) all executive positions too. Power, indeed, to the people.

In 482 BC, a rich vein of silver was struck in the mines at Laurium. Usually, this would have been distributed among the people. Themistocles, who ten years earlier had urged the development of Piraeus into a fortified dockyard and port, persuaded the assembly to put the money into building 200 ships to rule the Aegean seas with its c. 200 inhabited islands and extensive c. 1,800-mile coastline. The wealth and confidence thus generated arguably laid the foundations for Athens’ astonishing intellectual and artistic achievements in the 5th and 4th century BC.

One can quite understand why the now effectively retired Sir Stuart should prefer to stick with the old, comfortable routines with which he is familiar. But now Britons have a unique opportunity to do an Athens, laying the foundations of an independent future, free of EU management committees for bananas and cucumbers, and working globally with whom, and wherever, we choose — and they cannot stop us.

— Peter Jones

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  • Mary Ann

    A little balance would be nice, what about an article pointing out the advantages of staying in the EU. Too much to ask?

    • anonathiest


    • Conway

      I’m sure there would be, if there were any.

      • Andrew Cole

        You stole my comment to be there 🙂

      • Mary Ann

        There are but the outers refuse to accept any opinion but their own. If were as simple as you make out the majority of MPs wouldn’t support staying in, after all, if the outers are to be believed our MPs would have far more power if we leave, and as they become MPs because they enjoy power, wanting to stay is a bit of an oxymoron. Can you explain why most MPs want to stay.

        • Mr B J Mann

          No, they would have far more power over the sovereign destiny of the UK if they left.

          But they would lose the opportunity to rule the entire EU!

    • Andrew Cole

      The problem is we keep being told we know what we get with the EU and that if we leave it will be the great unknown.

      The truth is that remain or leave we do not know what we will get. If we leave will we be able to stand on our own two feet? If we remain how quickly will Europe move to enevelop the whole continent into their big scheme of things after all they will want to get this project finished sooner rather than later or others might have a vote.

      Works both ways. Both sides should stop scaremongering and on the flipside both sides should stop calling facts scaremongering so that they can say scaremongering. Otherwise people will just say ‘sod you lot’ and vote with their heads on how things have affected them. And your lot do not want that. There are many millions more poor low paid folks that have been or are currently or will be affected by migration than there are middle earners that enjoy the cafe lifestyle.

      Will you be voting from France Mary Ann? I’m sure they will wangle a postal vote scheme for ex-pats

      • Mary Ann

        If you had kept up to date with the news you would know that British emigrants keep their right to vote for 15 years after they leave Britian, Cameron has talked about extending it to all British migrants. You must remember, those Britons living in Europe are the ones that will be most affected if Britain leaves the EU, They will go from being EU citizens to being foreign migrants, they will have no right to State health care, benefits etc. I know the outers have this peculiar view about how easy it is for foreigners to get all sorts of privileges that are denied to the locals, all belonging to the EU does for people is to give them the same rights as the locals enjoy, except for voting, EU migrants can vote in local elections of whatever country they are living in but they can only vote in national elections for their country of origin.

        • Andrew Cole

          So your argument is that all of those who have decided they prefer to live somewhere other than Britain will be hard done by if the people who do live in that country decide they don’t want to remain part of Europe.

          I’m sorry. You chose to live abroad. Why? Why should I as someone who wants to live in Britain even consider what happens to people who have decided not to?

          You made your choice. I shall make mine. You have the choice to move back to Britain if we vote out and it messes up your lovely life abroad.

          • Mary Ann

            Not an unreasonable response, although Britain might have to pay the price when most of those half million pensioners come back because the can’t afford private health insurance, double taxation and frozen state pensions. Working people will probably be OK.

          • Andrew Cole

            I’m sorry but this ‘net migration thingamy is pure smokescreen. People who choose to live in Europe either have skills or have the money to support themselves. Quite often from the fruits of the inflated housing market her in the UK that has been caused by the bouyant rental market which gets another 600k customers each year to keep it bouyant. Then they have loads left over from their house sale once they have ought their european residence. Added to their savings they are quite comfortable.

            What do we get in exchange? 600,000 unskilled people coming in all pushing living costs up for the rest of us while you lot enjoy your life abroad and expect us to vote remain just so you can keep enjoying your cosy lot even though it continues to push us into a cycle of never ending rises in living costs.

            I’m sorry but those who chose to live abroad made their choice and I am happy for them but they can’t expect us who remain to suffer so that they can be happy.

        • whorya

          Mary Ann. I lived in Spain for 13yrs and was entitled to nothing unless I paid into their system, there was no social help unless charitable. you had to have private ins. if not working, you had to pay for your own translators, etc. Now stop talking about thing YOU know nothing about.

          • Mary Ann


            Either you were duped or Spain doesn’t have a state health care system.

            Mind you, how did you manage to live in Spain for 13 years without paying, if you stay in France for more than 183 days in a year you have to register for income tax?

          • whorya

            Read the post again M,A. Yes there is a very good state heath system, for all those who pay into it, I was self employed and paid 4x the amount in NI, as people do in Britain. When the recession created mass unemployment, suddenly every Gov. Heath, Council, employment, offices etc. Stopped speaking English. So for those who could not speak Spanish “had” to pay for their own interpreter. And this restricted them to the little help they could get.
            Further more there is no right to a life on the dole. You have to have a legal 12mth contract to qualify for 3mth, So you work 3yrs, you get 9mth unemployment benefit. then NADA.
            Very presumptuous to assume that I didn’t pay anything. (yes) taxes also. As to one of your other points, Brits living in Spain it will only affect those who are not legally working. Legal workers and the self-sufficient. Who before residing in Spain, “have” to prove their self sufficiency. At the time I moved there, Min 6,000euro in a bank acc, private med ins, and a permanent address. And that was for fellow Europeans.
            So You cant move to Spain and sign on, and think you are entitled to freebies from day one. “You have to pay into the system” Not like soft touch Britain.
            The non thinking beurocrates “unelected” of the EU parliament, should have equalized this problem throughout “all” the member states, Before the Schengen treaty. Please stop assuming things and think a little more.
            You state that we get 10x the amount back than we put in. If that being the case. I would like to invest every penny I have into the EU. God could not give me a better interest rate. Every country in the World would be putting their money into the EU. Please don’t talk ( I hope) someone else’s nonsense. Regards Laurence

    • WTF

      There’s no space for positive points for the IN campaign as they are consumed with filling the papers with scare tactics and scaremongering. Given the paucity of any verifiable facts on the advantages for staying in it would appear there isn’t any and that’s why none is being offered.

      Everyone knows you shouldn’t do negative campaigns as it puts people off but if they haven’t a positive message to spread, just like the anti Trump campaign in America we’re seeing the anti-out campaigners going negative.

      Ask away, but I’ve yet to hear anything positive of late about staying in.

    • whorya

      Because there are none, unless you are a non-contributing member.

      • Mary Ann

        The extra indirect wealth generated in Britain by being a member of the EU is ten times what it costs us.

        • whorya

          Interesting… post the figures that prove this. If not them, the Audited accounts of this organization. Because if I want to be a partner, or even buy or become a partner, or a share holder in a organized un-elected organization. I look at the balance books. As a retired business man, I do not trust the paper it is “not” written on. 30yrs,ish no records. Vote out. they are hiding to much.

          • Mary Ann

            It’s the young that want to stay, and it is their future, not ours. we had our turn and unless you retired very young you have already had your say in the previous referendum.

          • whorya

            Hi MA. I have commented on this before. The young have not experienced anything “better” so do not have a measure to go by. If they could go back in time, to the early 70s. To the inception of the (EEC) And see how the electorate were manipulated or even ignored as to what was supposed to be good for them, or shall we say,more likely businesses, and financiers. Then leap forward to what this organization has become. A undemocratic, tin pot dictatorship, mafia controlled, “Non” thinking, “Non” changing with the times, inflexible, About to implode on its self (loosely speaking) organization. YOU would want to vote OUT. Regards Laurence.

          • whorya

            Sorry to bother you again. but the future of youth is ours. We have the responsibility to make it safe for them. These are my family, we have to make it right no matter what. That is why people died in wars. Lest we forget.

        • whorya

          Hi M.A. not heard from you recently. Just thought of something you might want to think on before you vote “stay in”. A little while ago, and I haven’t done any research before this post, as I might of forgotten the point. The UK Government declared what its “Black” economy, i.e. Prostitution, drugs, protection, etc. was worth, I forget the exact amount. “But I will let you do the research”. Having publicized this fact. The “Law” upholding beurocrates of the EU. Made the “stupid” Government of the UK pay another £1,7 million in contributions.
          That money was never in Government hands to do what it might of wanted to do with it. i.e. Maybe to help out pensioners, training for apprentices etc.
          Now you would think the Justice commissioners of the EU. “Who change members laws” would demand that all the other members, to also declare their black economic income. NO nothing, not even Italy (Mafia). That is why they treat our Government with complete disregard. Concerning changers in “their organization” they only believe in honesty, when it is the UKs.
          If this self interested community, cant see the justice in every member completely paying its way. The more successful we become in this self interested club. The more they will TAX us of us. Regards Laurence.
          I am going to research the figures again. You can do the same. Just hope you see, a little more clearly what/who we are dealing with.

    • goodsoldier

      The advantage is that that if we remain in, we will be a part of the advance of international, totalitarian socialism. Trotskyites and trolls will reach their apotheosis.

  • paulus

    I think you have missed the whole point, if we are going to be like Athens we need to get the other to contribute. Democracy can be over rated but finance will always be King.

  • Toby Frith

    The conditions for Athen’s prosperity, growth and eventual imperialism in the 5th century BCE were markedly different to 21st century Britain. So I’m a bit staggered to see this being seriously considered as a model for a successful Brexit.

    • whorya

      Just so long as we have a successful Brexit.

      • Mary Ann

        That would be a failure.

        • whorya

          On the part of those who vote to stay in.

    • Mary Ann

      The Brexits are getting scared, they have no idea what will happen if we leave, look at Salmond, he must be heaving a sigh of relief that he lost his referendum with the fall in oil prices.

  • E.I.Cronin

    Ha! ”the world’s first (and last) democracy”. Cleisthenes sounds like the greatest visionary and most selfless political leader in human history until Edmund Burke. His reforms broke the backbone of aristocratic tyranny, crippled factionalism and limited corruption for 2 centuries. Can you imagine any of the careerists presiding over our shamocracies doing the same?

    To be fair though there is the world’s second democracy – Switzerland.

  • Norse Notion No.9

    Greetings from Norway!
    First of all, I don’t understand why Brit’s should think yourselves less capable of coping than Iceland’ers, Swiss or Norwegians, or for that matter Canadians, Australians, Japanese, South-Koreans…

    Even more important; I really don’t understand how anyone can still have illusions of EU being something good. It’s nature IS an increasingly “tightening” tyranny, controlled by very few people.
    Freedom and sovereignty must be better, even if it should mean a few pounds less, in your pocket.

    • fred flintstone

      Norse nation. We have been part of this gang and the fear seems to be that if we leave the gang they will turn on us. It is a possibility but in the end, they need the trade the same as others do so although it may be tough at first, things should settle down when the pinch starts to get felt in those countries trying to make a point.

      • Norse Notion No.9

        Exactly. On the fear of “punishments” from EU if you leave; well if that’s so,
        what does it tell you about what kind of organization EU really is???

        And isn’t it particularly hypocritical when “leftists” makes economical benefits -arguments for staying in the EU, since they otherwise are anti any focus or priority on economical growth and prosperity?
        In Norway the “left” are about evenly split for/against EU membership, I believe. They used to be a clear majority against, because EU was seen as a capitalist, “big-money” project. In later years, they’ve noticed that EU is very much pro- multiculturalism/massimmigration/islamo-apologist, like themselves. Consequently, many have shifted position.

    • Mary Ann

      Your PM isn’t impressed, pay the fees and have no say, we would be stupid to get the same arrangement as you have.

      • Norse Notion No.9

        So don’t!
        You pretend (implicitly) that the only option is the present time Norway -alternative. It’s not!
        The ‘pay the fees and have no say’ -situation you are talking about is a result of the so called EEA -agreement, where (in short) the benefits for Norway supposedly is toll-free access to the EU market (countries).
        But this is a politician invented deal, never put to vote for the people (like the EU membership was) and in many polls over many years now, the majority is against the EEA.
        And as Switzerland proves, one does not need it.

        On the fear of “punishments” from EU if you leave; well if that’s so, what does it tell you about what kind of organization EU really is???

  • Chris Dickenson

    As an ancient historian I’d say that Athens has a very different lesson to teach us: